28 Mar 2006

Counting the hours

We’re off to Rome tomorrow morning. We fly at 6.20am so we’ll stay in the airport hotel tonight. My Dad will be staying here and looking after the children. We really, really need to get away for a few days together.

I had been strained and tired and emotional over the weekend. Duncan is very sensitive to my mood. He gets so upset to see me sad and cuddles me and says, ‘No Mummy sad, Mummy happy.’ One time, he fetched a tissue and wiped my sad eyes. But the confusion also made him extra demanding.

Sunday was Mothers Day and Lady had made a beautiful card. After breakfast, we all worked together to clean the house for a while. I didn’t want to leave it looking too messy as my Dad would be staying over for a few days. Gordon cooked and his Mum came over for lunch. Duncan has been asking us to buy a particular train for a few days and he had convinced himself that Gordon would have it when he drove his Mum to our house. When he didn’t, Duncan expressed his BIG anger and made a lot of noise. I took him upstairs to help him deal with it and to get him away from my MIL who I knew would be shocked at his behaviour. While there, Gordon came to tell me that his Mum was very upset about Duncan and was worried it might be her fault. I can tell you this was not the thing to say just then. I asked him to explain to her the nature of Duncan’s disability and could people not have a bit more understanding and it isn’t about THEM. Well, we all calmed down after a while and had the delicious lunch Gordon had prepared.

On Monday we all went to the transport museum and had a good work out running after Duncan. Afterwards, we all got chips at the chippie and ate by the sea.

Today (Tuesday) I’ve been clothes shopping and had my hair cut and I’m running round like crazy trying to get clothes washed and everything ready to unleash my children on my father for a few days. I explained to them all that we’d be going away for a few days and the Granda would be looking after them. I told them I’d get them all a present. I’d already bought the correct train for Duncan! I drew a little cartoon for him to describe what would be happening over the next few days. I’ll get round to packing for myself eventually I’m sure!
I can’t flicking wait to go!

24 Mar 2006

Spinning while turning

I had a big panic on Monday about Lady’s maths abilities and convinced myself that I’ve been failing her because she wasn’t able to do something she had previously been able to do. It appeared that what she could do in one setting, like a computer game or worksheet, she couldn’t do in other settings. She wasn’t generalising. Well I spouted on for a while in a ridiculous and destructive way about how I’d have to send her back to school as I clearly wasn’t capable of helping her to learn myself, blah blah…

Well I calmed down after a while (and apologised for my stupid behaviour) we thought about what we needed to do. We’ve decided to go back to using the Maths Enhancement Programme. I think we would both benefit from following a prescribed course of study right now, for maths anyway.

So each day she has worked through 4 or 5 pages of that, and she’s enjoying it and gaining confidence in her abilities to think logically about the problems. I also asked her to start writing a story. She has added an instalment every day and it’s getting very exciting. It’s about a little boy, named after Duncan, who meets an evil, child-gobbling witch, whom she’s named after me. Ummm, nice. With this, playing the piano a bit, playing with her brothers a lot and reading and learning/playing on the computer, the days have been full and fun.

The boys spend most of their days playing together. There were a few sunny but cold days and they were outside a lot. We went to a local playground on Wednesday. Duncan was on the roundabout for ages. It wasn’t enough for him that it was turning, he was spinning while on the contraption too! How can he balance like that? I felt dizzy after a few minutes on it! He also copied his big sister in her game of rolling down the grass bank. Thomas is much more stoic. He calmly walks around and has a go on everything. He jumped onto the big swing and I asked if he would like a push. He said ‘no thank you, I will do it myself’ and he did. He loves it when other children are in the park and always makes friends with them.

He’s such a cute boy. He and Gordon have a special game they play; he holds Gordon's face and asks ‘if I kiss you, will I be in TWOUBLE!!!’, Gordon says yes, Thomas kisses him, then much tickling and laughter ensues!

Duncan is still big into dressing up. He’s been Pinocchio, Grumpy from Snow White and Fizz from the Tweenies in the past few days. He’s very resourceful, and has decided that if the correct costume can’t be found in his dressing up box or someone’s wardrobe, then Mummy can draw it and stick it on him. Yesterday he came downstairs with my pink t-shirt, asked me to out it on and had me draw white flowers to stick on it. We then used Lady’s dressing gown belt as Fizz’s white belt. He was upset that we couldn’t make his legs yellow and wore a pair of pink tights instead. Yip, I’m raising a transvestite autistic!

I asked him to fetch the sticky tape for our project and he went running off to the table saying ‘I get the sticky tape, hooray, I found it’ then handed it to me saying ‘thank you’. It was the 1st time I’ve heard him refer to himself as ‘I’. He also did some colouring in himself yesterday. He usually gets frustrated at his efforts as he wants the finished project to look exactly like what ever he’s copying. He coloured Lucy from ’64 Zoo Lane’ and gave her bright pink skin. I asked what colour his face is and he said ‘pink face’. He then divided all the family into pink versus brown faces. Mummy, Duncan and Thomas are pink, Daddy and Lady are brown.

I must end this, as he has just told me he wants a beanstalk. He means the big ones that grow from magic beans and have giants at the top. Right, do you think ebay does them?

(An aside, for anyone who wants to know what to say and how to help families with a child with autism, or any disability, could read this excellent post by Estee.)

20 Mar 2006

Educational philosophy for Duncan

This is what I have sent to our education board to demonstrate how I intend to educate Duncan at home. I've had to make it suitable for the purpose, so have written about 'literacy' and 'facilitating communication' and that sort of thing these people like to hear.
    We will provide our son with an efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability, aptitude and to his special educational needs as identified on his Statement, in accordance with Regulation 6 of the NI Education Regulations 1974, No. 78.
    Case law in England and Wales has established that an ‘efficient’ education is one that achieves what it sets out to achieve and prepares the child for life in modern civilised society, enabling them to fulfil their potential. Duncan’s education will be full-time as we consider every part of the day to provide learning opportunities.
    Duncan’s special needs are identified in his Statement. He has a diagnosis of ASD. He has difficulties with speech and language and with social communication. He also displays some obsessive behaviour. In his education, we aim to improve his;

    1. Communication skills
    2. Play and social interaction skills
    3. Behaviour
    4. Numeracy, literacy and all other areas of learning
    5. Self-help skills

    It is explicit in law that the education of our child is an aspect of our parental responsibilities. We aim to engender in Duncan, the desire to learn and the ambition to realise his potential. We want him to have empathy and respect for others. We will help him gain confidence and self-esteem. We hope to extent his ability to focus on goals. We want him to develop a health conscious life style, the skills to solve problems and the flexibility to deal with modern life as well as he is capable.

    We have taken part in the Early Bird autism course run by the National Autistic Society and have read extensively about autism from a variety of sources, with a particular interest in autistic learning. We have adopted many ideas to facilitate Duncan’s communication as much as possible.

    We have studied and work with Duncan’s personality type and sensory preferences. We can use this information to optimise the conditions to help him to learn, communicate and interact. Optimisation of his environment also helps to avoid problem behaviour.

    For example, Duncan enjoys physical activity. We try to make the most of his exuberance with rough and tumble games or by playing chase or hide and seek. These provide many opportunities for communication and social interaction. This also provides the balance he needs to be able to concentrate and engage on more focused learning tasks. Physical activity is also important for his health so we ensure he has many opportunities to exercise. He enjoys playing in the garden, on the climbing frame or with his bike and scooter. He likes to go to the playground, or soft play centre, which provide opportunities to play with other children. We also often go to the nearby beach or to the countryside park for family walks.

    The home environment provides the right level of stability for Duncan. He functions best with consistency. At home we have the chance to model empathy and to help him gain understanding of his emotions by labelling. There is no need for extrinsic modifications or rewards or punishments. These are counter-productive. We will help him to learn to do what is right and internalise these skills; not to do things out of fear or to gain gold stars.

    Every routine of the day provides opportunities to extend his communication. We are fostering routines and order. At home we have more time to help him develop skills in, for example, toileting, dressing, choosing clothes, tidying his room.

    Duncan is a clever boy and has demonstrated a great capacity for learning. It is clear that he is a visual and hands-on learner. Our role is to facilitate his development; to enable his talents and natural curiosity. He can learn at his own pace and will be encouraged to discover, explore and create. Duncan learns best in the security of his home with his family. He learns implicitly from his various special interests.

    Duncan’s communication abilities will improve as he develops reading and writing skills, so encouraging literacy is important. He now enjoys listening to stories, either alone or with his family. We often act out the scenarios or use toys as props. He has access to a large number of children’s books and we often visit the library. Duncan has a particular interest in everything to do with Thomas the Tank Engine, so I have bought a new set of ‘learn to read with Thomas’ books to capitalise on this. (Duncan learnt his colours and numbers through ‘Thomas’. The characters also helped him to recognise the facial expressions for different emotions.
    His first spoken word was ‘train’ and the first words he learned to read, after his own name, were Thomas, Percy James, Edward and Fat Controller!) As he is now starting to read some words, we will help to extend this ability.
    He has come to love many other stories too, and among his current favourites are ‘Duck in the Truck’, ‘We're Going on a Bear Hunt’ and the ‘Apple Tree Farm’ stories.
    A good deal of Duncan’s speech is phrases copied from videos and computer games. We play with him and act out the phrases to help him understand their meaning.

    The computer is a crucial tool in Duncan’s learning. He is adept at using the mouse and can write his name using the keyboard. We have a broadband internet connection, and Duncan can use bookmarks, move back and forward through pages and find the home page.
    I have bookmarked lots of excellent sites. He enjoys cbeebies which has lots of great games, stories and activities. He also enjoys the Starfall learn to read site and Literactive.com.
    We also have lots of educational CD ROMs. Using all these, he can listen to stories and songs, play games and follow instructions. They help to improve his literacy and numeracy in a fun way that holds his interest. Using the computer together provides a point of joint attention. Other tools that are available to facilitate Duncan’s education include DVD’s, Cuisenaire rods, magnetic numbers, letter cards, Lego, puzzles, card and board games, workbooks and craft resources.

    A lot of learning happens through real life situations. Duncan often helps to cook which gives him a chance to discover many principles of science like mixing and melting, and of maths, like measuring and counting. Learning about food will also hopefully increase the range of food he will eat.

    Duncan enjoys playing and having fun with all his family including his extended family and close friends. We have annual family membership at Belfast Zoo, W5 and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and visit all these regularly.

    Duncan’s home-based education will progress in a manner which optimises his continuing development while meeting all his needs.

Running around

I took Lady to her Ju-Jitsu class on Saturday then spent the time pootling about the town alone- bliss! I trawled the charity shops (not having enough junk of our own at home…) and bought a few more children’s books, including a few ‘Famous Five’ books which I think Lady would enjoy. I loved them as a child, though they are quite trashy and politically incorrect (sexist mainly, as far as I remember). When she's read them, we can talk about the changes in society since then. Got to keep the liberal ideological training going!

I took all the children to a friend’s 4th birthday party in the afternoon. The children all had a fantastic time. Lady hung out with 2 older girls and I think she thought they were really cool. Thomas loved it, he and his little buddy are so similar and cute together. Later he was telling Gordon all about it, ‘I like-ed the pizza and the crisps and I like-ed making big burps and everybody was laughing’. Duncan was, well, tricky. He discovered a packet of biscuits on arrival and wouldn’t stop climbing to get them. He had a fair few tantrums and I was trying to calm him down often.

I had to decide before we went whether I should take him or leave him behind with Gordon, but he knew we were going to a party and he really wanted to go. It wouldn’t have been fair to leave him just because he’s harder work. Part of the problem was bad planning by me and I felt bad that the other adults there who don’t really know us might be thinking how awful it must be dealing with children like him. (None of the other children posed any problem as far as I could see.) I should have brought some food and drink with me because he’s so limited in what he eats that even child friendly home-made pizza, crisps and cola aren’t acceptable to him. As soon as the cake was cut we all left, but he still had time to grab at the bit of icing the birthday boy was eating and break it up. I felt bad about that, but I just wasn’t fast enough to stop him.
It might sound strange, like I’m over analysing all this, but I need to learn what I can improve to help him deal with situations better.

There were 2 notable occurrences on Sunday. 1st, I went out for a run. I haven’t run for ages and I did OK. It was great actually; I went easy and ran into the park which was utterly beautiful. There were tiny pink flower buds appearing on the hawthorn and I saw the 1st crop of wild primroses. I used to pick bunches from the hedges round our house for my Mum when I was little. I hope I can run more often as the evenings get lighter, that is if I’m not totally knackered by the time Gordon comes home from work!

The 2nd and more amazing thing was that Duncan ate a chicken leg!!! He was hungry and asked for some chicken. Obviously I obliged, then we all stood in wonder as he ate it, dipped in tomato ketchup of course!

17 Mar 2006

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Today started off a whole lot better than yesterday. I even had my breakfast brought up to me in bed. Today was a holiday so Gordon was at home; and he used his laptop for only about 30 minutes!!

There were loads of extra events at the local folk museum today to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. It’s a bit different to how I did things as a child. Then, Paddy’s day was a great excuse to break my lentern denial of sweets. We all pinned a bunch of shamrocks to our coat with a big golden harp thing, headed to Mass and sang the Hail Glorious St Patrick hymn, then we stuffed our faces with sweets before heading to Letterkenny in Donegal for a fairly rubbish parade. I don’t do the mass thing any more so the religious aspect of the day is lost to me. I can’t be doing with all that corny green beer either, not that I get much opportunity for sitting about in pubs anyway. But it’s a bit annoying how it’s almost seen as St bloody Guinness’s day now! The folk museum thing was nice though, and no matter what foot you kick with, you could enjoy it ;-)

But of course we’re not your average family. It was cold and windy (it wid’a foundered ye). The children went rushing off and started going into some of the little houses, looking at the open fires, running up the narrow staircases. Duncan really liked the room housing an old town library, especially the grandfather clock and the glass case full of stuffed birds. I suppose that kind of thing was cool 100 years ago. Some bright spark had decided to stick an ice-cream van in the middle of the town square. Did they not know we were coming? Do they not know how tricky it is to keep Duncan away from that kind of thing? And did they not think that it was a bit of wishful thinking to expect to sell much ice-cream on a cold March day in the top bit of Ireland?

True to form he made straight for the van, and I lead him away telling him I would buy some ‘floss’ (candyfloss, which they also sold) just before we went home. After that he was in and out of buildings, running to the van in between with me panting along behind him. Once I was a few seconds too slow and he was trying to climb up into the van. Lady was closer so she pulled him down and I heard her tell the woman there, ‘he’s got autism’ in her straightforward manner. Just before we left, we all had a ride on a trap pulled by 2 beautiful shire horses. They all loved this. Thomas and Gordon sat up front beside the driver, and Duncan squealed with pleasure and sang ‘horsy, horsy, don’t you stop’ twice!

One thing that went through my mind as I was watching him run around shouting and squealing with happiness, enjoying the feeling of the wind pushing him, I thought about how he would appear to others. The sound he was making sounded like ‘arghhh!’ but happy. I thought that though he sounds cute doing it now, if he’s making that kind of noise when he’s 10 it will look weird. Though why I thought about this I don’t know because I couldn’t actually give a flying duck what outsiders think.

He was fed up when we were leaving as he wanted more ‘floss’ and made a terrible racket in the car. It upset Gordon more than me. I think I’ve finally realised that it’s not worth getting upset because he always gets over it soon enough. One thing I will have to sort out though is a new seat belt system as he kept undoing his.

Our new desktop computer arrived from Dell; I ordered it at almost midnight on Tuesday and it was delivered yesterday. We bought the cheapest one they sell, £289, and Gordon and Lady went to PC World to buy a speaker system and internet connection. He loves it there (and hifi shops and stationary shops and electronic music shops). When they came home, he told me they’d had a great talk about progress. Hmm. She told us that she’s going to test Santa’s existence by asking him for the ASIMO robot Gordon showed her; she reckons if he’s real he’ll be able to get it, but if it’s just her parents, we’ll never be able to afford it.

I might ask him for a 5 day a week maid, just in case he’s real.

16 Mar 2006

Zeebad in da house

I’ve had a blog break for a few days. I have just been slammed here and by the time I get the children to bed, I’ve been exhausted.

I can’t believe how tricky these freakin’ head lice have been. I’ve spent ages every day combing them out. Poor Thomas had a mega-city settled in his sweet head.

On to more joyful things, the children have been busy playing and eating and reading and arguing and drawing and all the rest of that sort of thing. Lady has started to learn to play piano. Gordon has taught her a few scales and she’s just started to play a few very basic 3 note pieces of music. She has taken to it really well and likes it so far. She bops her head up and down as she plays to keep time, it’s very cute. Yesterday she went to Brownies for the 1st time. The same woman runs Brownies and Rainbows and she had told me that Lady was old enough to move up. She really enjoyed it and says it is much more interesting and fun for 7 year olds. She needs a new uniform now so we’ll go to the guide shop later to get one. Hopefully she will be able to get to know a few girls in the village now.

Well, we’re 1/3 of the way to being proper home-educators yesterday. We made flubber! It was great, though there was only 1 small bottle of white PVA glue in the shop when I went, so we could only make a tiny bit of flubber. We used red food colouring so it was a beautiful pink colour. We all had lots of fun with it! Duncan loved feeling it against his face, I tried it and it did feel nice!

I had a few emotional outbursts from Duncan to deal with yesterday too. He was getting cross about some more trains he wants me to buy. But he got over it with a bit of help. I did have to draw many, many paper trains though!

Today he has decided he would dress up as Zeebad from the Magic Roundabout film so he was running around in a grey vest with a belt over the top and his pants. He asked me to make his hands blue too ‘not pink’, for that extra authenticity! Thankfully I was able to dissuade him from that plan. He boinged about the house for a while, clutching his ‘paper Zeebad’ which I drew earlier.

I’m a bit stressed myself for a few reasons but I hope it’ll get better soon.

10 Mar 2006


We’ve got head lice, this has never happened here before. Thomas is the main victim. I discovered them when I was combing his hair after their bath today. I saw one louse but no nits on Duncan and none at all on Lady. I had loads in my hair too, Yuk yuk!
I suppose it was going to happen at some stage!

More bad news. I also got a letter from the education board today about home-educating Duncan. It contained this sentence,

“You will be aware that because Ryan is of compulsory school age, both the Board and yourself must have regard to the law which places a duty of parents to secure the regular attendance at school of their child.”

How about that for great writing! Then she goes on to ask me to provide written details of how I intend to educate him according to age, aptitude, ability and taking his special needs into account. So it’s a bit mixed up. First, she falsely says I have to send him to school then she’s asking for evidence of how I will educate him.
I’ll send in an educational philosophy and they will have to give consent to de-register him, or try to prove that no child can be de-registered here in NI. Then we’ll square up for a good battle!

9 Mar 2006

Meeting the professional

At 11.30 yesterday I suddenly remembered that Duncan had an appointment with the clinical psychologist at 1.30. The paediatrician we saw last year suggested it and we agreed thinking we should get ‘on the books’ of a few people here in Northern Ireland. So I took Lady and Thomas to their Grandma and went to the hospital with Duncan. It’s been at least 6 months since we went there but of course he recognised the place immediately and wanted to go up the stairs to play with the ‘red train’. So he was a bit put out when we were asked to wait in another room. We went in to see the psychologist soon after. It was a strange session. To be honest the only reason I went is because I’m filling Duncan’s disability living allowance (DLA) form and it always helps your case to have some professional or other backing up your claim, particularly since I’m now home-educating him. So I decided I would just make sure I got all the ‘difficulties’ we have with Duncan down on paper, I mean, all the extra effort we have to put in to keeping things ticking along. None of this is bad or hard to deal with, it’s just how it is, but I know the DLA money could come in useful for him later.

Anyway, I just talked to her about what we do and the things we have to deal with and how. I told her about Duncan’s complete lack of road sense and how if I have the 2 boys out, it’s Duncan’s hand I make sure I hold onto at all times and not his 3 yo brother. I talked about his bed wetting and how he gets really upset when he wants something and doesn’t get it. I also talked about the solutions I’ve come up with to deal with these things. She obviously had to recommend something so she advised me to use cards symbolising ‘quiet’ or ‘stop this tantrum’ or something when he gets into a bit of a strop in a shop. And she had some idea about making a game to try to get him to eat more varied food. It was a bit of a drag. It actually went on for nearly 2 hours. Who on earth is paying for this woman’s time? She just sat there and let me witter on and on. She arranged for us to meet up again in a months time (blimey!) to see how things have progressed. I’ll have to get on with finishing this DLA form because I really don’t want to darken her door again. (She also used the expression ‘these children’ twice or so; I really hate that one).
The other interesting thing is that while he was in her office, Duncan was an absolute angel. He got bit fed up toward the end, understandably, and wanted my attention. I couldn’t see either of my other 2 children managing to amuse themselves with a box of manky toys and a paper rocket I’d made earlier for such a long time! When we were finally leaving, he asked to take a ‘James’ train home with him. She said it had to stay in the box for all the other boys and girls to play with. I told him I could draw a picture of James with the driver at home and he was perfectly happy with that.

Today we had a nice chilled sort of day. The children did what they enjoy; played on the computer, drew pictures, read, told stories, watched cbeebies and helped to make pancakes. Lady has continued her arithmetic practise, focusing manly on multiplication and division. She went to Rainbows too having missed a few from being away or someone being sick. She’s been told she can join Brownies if she wants so next week she’ll start that.

They’re all asleep now and I’m enjoying the quiet, a Magnum ice-cream and a supremely cheesy TV show called Hotel Babylon. Happy days!

8 Mar 2006

NO dancing bears!

My sister stayed over with us on Monday night. I was telling her about how great Duncan has been since he finished school for good, and right on cue he was loud, crying and complaining. He wanted me to find a picture on-line of the dancing bear from the Teletubbies. No such picture exists. I had to take him upstairs twice so we could spend some time away from everyone else and get some of the anger out of his system. Eventually he was able to accept a Mummy-drawn picture based on his description, and after that he was back to being a delight.

All 3 children were still loud, but in the joyful way when my Dad arrived. The boys made him play chase and Duncan loved it when he pretended Duncan’s Peter Pan hat was his. Duncan kept saying ‘it’s mine, give it back, give it to me’. I love to hear him playing along but at the same time clearly saying what he wants. It should make it harder for nasty people to push him about.

Lady worked on sums, she’s finally getting lots of the number facts memorised. Thomas played a bit of ‘Jojo in Numberland’ and managed to sort the counters into disordered drawers marked up to 20. I didn’t know he could do that. Duncan played lots of Tweenies games and spent a few minutes looking at a Thomas the Tank workbook. He was able to match words to pictures for 5 words, some of which were not engine names! They all enjoyed the literactive.com site. Thomas played the ‘Hairy Mary’ story about 30 times. He was fascinated at the idea of a girl getting teased and then getting mad and hurting others.

Gordon had to leave this evening for another series of cancer research meetings. He’s been away a lot in the past few weeks. We’ll be glad when this run is over.

6 Mar 2006

Family gathering

Yesterday it was ten years since the day my mother died of cancer. My aunt invited everyone to her house to gather, have a meal and remember her.

So I drove with Gordon and the 3 children 100 miles to my home town. Everyone was going to the church first so Lady joined my Dad and sister while I went to take the boys in. Duncan hasn’t been to church since he was about 2 since I’ve stopped going and he was intimidated by the large towering building. He said ‘no go in scary castle’, so I turned round and took him back to the car and Gordon looked after him while Thomas and I returned to the church. It was nice to sit among all the family members and admire all the babies, though the service did little for me. We all went to the graveyard next before heading over to my aunt’s house.
My Mum’s 4 sisters and their husbands were there as well as lots of cousins and their children. The house was filled with people and noise. Duncan wanted to go to another aunt’s house at first, the one who has a working cuckoo clock. But he went in, found a few toys and a supply of sweets in one of the cupboards and he was happy. I am very close to my aunt, the one who organised the whole thing. She had prepared a huge amount of food and we all ate and drank and had a great time. Having these big parties with lots of people and food is a great tradition on my mother’s side. I’d brought some of the letters Mammy (as we always called her) wrote me when I was at university and passed them out among a few people. They were always very short and are among the only ones she wrote, mainly because my siblings were mostly at home before she died. She wrote exactly as she would have spoken and when I read them I can hear her voice.

The children loved playing with their cousins and spent most of the time outside. Gordon had really worried about Duncan before we went and we planned to leave if it was clear he was having a hard time. However he was perfectly happy all the time we were there. He found a little yellow lorry which he carried around and my aunt had thoughtfully bought him a new Thomas the tank engine book with noisy buttons. Both boys loved playing chase with their big cousin. Thomas was busy making everyone fall in love with him by flashing his big brown eyes and sweet talking them. Lady was talking to few elderly relatives about home-education (after they asked if she liked school) and left them looking baffled at the very idea!
I hugged my aunt when we were going and thanked her for having us all and told her that it was my favourite way to spend the day.

Memories of Kathleen
• Hugging her every time I was leaving home to return to university; both of us in tears in case it was the last time we’d be together,
• Filling with joy when she would walk up the country road to meet me off the school bus,
• Baking together,
• Feeling so proud when she’d made a dress for herself, me and my doll using the same material,
• Choosing my wedding dress together, both of us picking the same dress instantly, her crying when I tried it on,
• Getting married 25 days after she died because we hadn’t brought our wedding date forward by quite enough time,
• Her crying on the phone as her sister had just told her about my cousin who was unexpectedly pregnant, whereas Mammy knew she would never know her grandchildren,
• Lying beside me when I was little and had the flu and telling me how she hated to see me so sick,
• Wrapping Christmas presents for my youngest brother and sister; when I exclaimed at how much they were getting, she pointed out that she wanted it to be a special Christmas as they wouldn’t have another with her,
• Never ending hugs and kisses and the feeling of utter safety in her arms,
• Too many days of pain and sickness and suffering,
• Spending the last day with her and Daddy in the hospice.

How I wish she could’ve known the children, how I miss her.
She will never be forgotten.

4 Mar 2006

Can this last?

We’re having one good day after another with all the children and especially Duncan. Gordon was asking me a few days ago if I could pin-point what we’re doing different right now, i.e. had Duncan expanded his diet? It’s obvious that what's changed is that he hasn’t been to school since 15 Feb. He isn’t struggling to conform to an imposed routine. He can go run round, or bounce on a bed, or have a big hug when he feels the need. He can play on the computer for as long as he wants, and is giving way to Lady and Thomas when I tell him that they want a turn. He can bring me a book to read or ask me to draw a picture any time and there’s usually a good chance that I will be able to oblige fairly soon after. His use of spoken language is increasing daily. He is playing with his siblings more than ever, frequently seeking them out to play some game or other. He has more fun with them than alone most of the time, and if he ever wants to lie on his bedroom floor and play with trains, then he can do so.

We went to their Grandma’s house today while Lady was at Ju-Jitsu and Duncan was much happier than last week. He asked for a new train but readily accepted that I just wasn’t going to get one. The boys chased each other and played with an ABC puzzle. They were loud though! I don’t notice it so much in our house which is bigger, but I’m also always a bit worried about how their poor Grandma is coping. She lives alone and loves her peace and quiet. She says it’s OK though in small doses!
Lady informed me that she beat a green belt child in the wrestling (or whatever it’s called) at the end of Ju-Jitsu and one of the other girls came to tell me how great she’d been! She’s told me she has a grading at the end of the month. It seems a bit soon to me but whatever, she’s enjoying it. (Her real name was inspired by an a** kicking TV character!)

3 Mar 2006

Introducing the Baroness

The boys came in for their morning cuddle, and as usual Thomas greeted me with, ‘good morning Mummy’. He then told me about his dream- he was in W5 and he was on the moving stairs and there were nasty trains and purple spiders and there were lots of girls and boys and the boys were saving the girls (eh?) and he was flying but he had no cloak. Whew!!
Duncan was wearing his favourite top today. It’s black with red sleeves, and a red and yellow logo on the front. He got me to draw a picture of himself wearing the top and his red wellies. He checked that I got all the details right. Then I had to roll it into a tube and tape it and he carried it around the rest of the day. When Gordon phoned home, Duncan was keen to tell him about the picture.
Duncan has usually been carrying some small object around with him ever since he could grip. When he was only about 9 months old, he wanted to take a bottle of Olbas Oil to bed with him. It comes in a small glass bottle with a pointed white plastic lid. I tried to get him to accept all sorts of substitutes but he was adamant that he wanted that bottle. I think I let him hold it; I just stayed near by and took it off him when he finally went to sleep.
They all had a ‘superbath’ this evening. They were in there for ages with a pile of toys. Duncan was playing with a pair of small baby dolls and I heard him have one say to the other ‘oh, you mus be ba-on-ess Sheider’. I had no idea what this was but Lady kindly translated, ‘he’s saying, ‘oh you must be Baroness Schneider’, it’s from the Sound of Music’. Well, that’s an unusual thing for a 5 year old boy to say, but, welcome to our world!

That's alright!

Today started with the familiar sound of Duncan running from his room to ours. He jumped in beside me and snuggled up, to be joined a few moments later by Thomas. After that it was just another normal day here at the engine shed. Lady started to write a story about ‘Pixen the Pixie’, which sounds like it’s totally plagiarising several by Enid Blyton. I read her some of Ms Blyton’s ‘Faraway Tree’ and ‘Magical Wishing Chair’ books last year, but I had to give up before finishing as I was getting so sick of them. I told her she’d just have to get better at reading for herself if she wants to hear the rest of those. Actually, when I was little we didn’t have 10% of the books that my lot have, and though my parents must have read aloud to me at some stage, I can’t remember it. Maybe that’s why I had the motivation to read early. But Lady is really getting there now.

And one more first from Duncan, da ta da!!
They were all playing ‘running up and down’ in the kitchen today when I walked by and bumped into him. I said ‘oh, sorry’ and straight off he said, ‘that’s alright’.
What!!? I wouldn’t have expected that and it just made me smile so much.

Later I called his (old) school and spoke at length to his teacher. She said she was so upset to hear that he’s not going back and that they’ve really been missing him. She also said that she isn’t surprised that we are going to home-educate him. He always hugely enjoyed one-to-one activities in school but he had problems with the strict structure, changing activities and all group tasks. He was, she said, the child they were having the most problems getting through to. She wished us well, invited me to visit some time to pick up all his little bits of art and to talk about what they were planning to do next with him. She said that she knew he would thrive at home. I also called the principle, who I’ve spoken to just once briefly before. He was quite surprised about this development. But then unlike Duncan’s class teacher, he doesn’t know we’ve been doing this for almost 2 years with Lady. I told the principle that I’d always intended to have him learn at home at some stage, but that he’d told me he didn’t want to go back. He recommended that I talk to the Educational Psychologist. I might do at some stage, but only because I’ve met her a few times and I like her. It sounded like he thought I’m a total push-over for taking Duncan’s wishes seriously! Anyway, that’s dealt with now, and we're just getting on with it and having a grand old time!

1 Mar 2006

Ice and snow

We had a few flurries of snow and hail today. Duncan was very excited by it and really wanted a closer look, ‘snow and ice, Ice Age!’. So the children all went out to the garden to play. Lady squashed up a few handfuls into ice balls and stuck one into the freezer to show Daddy later. I’m sure he was thrilled. ;-)

I was a bit stressed today. The never ending mess and cleaning was getting to me. Lady and Thomas were bickering with each other a bit more than usual too, though they were really only picking up on my negativity. Duncan, bless him, was easier than the other two. He is blossoming. When Gordon was going off to work this morning he said bye to Duncan who chirruped back, ‘bye Daddy, goodbye!’ followed a minute later by ‘where are you going?’. Gordon said that he’s going to work and Duncan pondered that, ‘Daddy go to work. Daddy go on train.’ Now this is another first for him. He’s never asked a question like that before.

Lady did lots of learning today, writing and maths and reading. She’s reading ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ aloud and is really proud of herself; a proper chapter book! She’s enjoying the BBC Jam site still and also spent a bit of time on her favourite, the Chronicles of Narnia site. The boys were chuckling away at the Tweenies on cbeebies. They keep making mistakes on purpose because they love it when the characters say ‘whoops a daisy!’.
Duncan was watching ‘Chicken Run’ earlier. He was watching the same bit over and over, and then he ran off and got a toy sword and was copying the nasty woman trying to chop the chicken. He kept putting two fingers into his mouth and stretching his mouth out, then I realised he was trying to look like a wide-mouthed Nick Parks character. :-)